Reflection

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On the eve of our adoption coming soon I find myself doing alot of reflecting over the last two years and our journey. When you come through the fire it is not hard to look back over where you have been. I had a certain memory I wanted to share with all my friends.

When we were given our foster daughter for placement the first few weeks were basically full of no information. You just take care of an infant doing what you know and rest in that alone. Then over the course of a few more weeks you begin to get more details. At this point I am told the bio mom is in prison with a four year sentence and the placement of this little girl is looking to be long term. This filled me with so many questions. I was terrified of having a bond with her for years and then having to let her go. Let me back up a minute and say I never intended to adopt. I am not sure what I thought. Maybe like a long sleep over? I really just wanted to help and I wanted to mentor a mother to help her be the best mom she herself could be. So when they say we are looking at a year or more and that she may not be going back to her bio mom I felt myself go into a different mode of thinking. It is during this time the baby is going through withdrawals and as she struggles I am falling more for her every day.

I still maintain that if circumstances were different and bio mom was in the picture I could have helped them to reunite. But our little princess had no contact with any bio parent. Ever. Not during the entire placement. I was all she knew as mom, and my husband was all she knew as dad. Over time she was just another member of our family and I was fiercely protective over her. I could not have loved her more if I had given birth to her myself.

That brings me to a year. We have become a family of 6 and although we are attending every court hearing and it is always full of ups and downs I feel that we are heading in the direction of adoption. I mean at this point I have been asked by DHS a few times if we would be interested in adopting her. Our answer YES!!! She was mine and I was hers.

But now all of a sudden there is talk that bio mom may be released from prison early. Okay, happy for her but why does that matter? Baby girl has now been with us for a year and we are all she knows right? I could see and sense a change in DHS. I am hearing words like visitation, and reunification, and telling me I should get a support group. THIS WAS A BOMB. I hit a bottom I didn’t know existed. Am I going to loose her? Not only that… but with foster care you not only suffer grief as if a child has died but also the every day, every minute fear that they are walking on this earth in a situation where they are hungry, hurt, and missing you. I felt my world spinning out of control.

It was during this time I found my conversation with God come full circle. I was fearful. “PLEASE don’t take her from me.” Then I was angry. “How could you do this to ME?” Then I prayed for her, our little girl. “Please protect her”. And I found myself telling God that I knew he loved this precious little one. And if this was what was best for HER then please help me to understand and to let her go. It was at this moment when I surrendered MY will for HIS I heard him. This is what he told me. “yes, I do love her. of course I am going to protect her. She is my child too and I am in control. BUT my love doesn’t stop there. I love YOU too. YOU are my child. And if you trust me I am going to protect YOU”. I will tell you this did bring me comfort but I still wrestled. He didn’t say I was going to keep her. He didn’t say I was going to get the answer I wanted. (he did actually reveal that few months later). He said he loved ME. He was going to be there for ME. I knew in this moment that I would come out okay. I didn’t know what or how but I was going to make it through.

Now we sit here a week from adoption and I am beyond words to say how thankful I am. His will be done. But I also have grown in my walk with him. I have come to place of trust I hadn’t been before. A deeper level I am also thankful for. So what ever you suffer today, where ever you struggle I say to you, HE loves YOU. And if you trust him he will see you through.

I am not alone!

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We took a trip to Hobby Lobby yesterday (a.k.a. mommy’s favorite store) and as we were checking out there were three cashiers that gathered around to awe and coo and the baby, remarking on how beautiful and happy she was.They asked my daughter if that was her baby sister. With all the innocence of a child she answered yes, but the baby didn’t come out of her mommy’s tummy and she was given to us because her mom was in jail. I suddenly got that nervous laugh and felt the need to explain. I told them that I am her foster mommy. Right there one of the cashiers looked at me nodding and with knowing eyes and told me she adopted her son “out of the system.” Then a second cashier standing on my left told me she fostered a total of 6 children ages 2 and up. Out of four of us standing there THREE of us had this in common! What are the odds??

In that moment I felt such unity with this small circle. Wow, the three of us were actually a majority within the group! The love and understanding I saw in their smiles and eyes touched me. I felt such encouragement from these strangers. The unspoken words they sent me with their eyes moved me.

Sometimes I am surprised at God’s ability to speak to me. I don’t know why. There isn’t anything he can not do. Maybe just that he WOULD speak to me. There in this moment I felt as if he was holding my hand. Sending these women to show me that I was not alone. It was such a small unit of time, but it felt like for a moment time stood still for the three of us. We didn’t say much. We didn’t have to. These were women who had BEEN there. They knew my struggles. They knew my fears. They lived to tell about it. The solidarity with these strangers was amazing. I felt their strength pass to me.

So here I am. Another day. But this day I feel it. I am not alone. People are good. I feel Him squeeze my hand as it rests in His.

My Secret

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For anyone that knows much about me they know that I love to sew. I love to create. And with anyone who is familiar with sewing they know that there is a lot of prep work that comes into play before you ever even sit down to a machine. Buying supplies, cutting the fabric, measurements…. really I could go on and on. Once you have gotten all your ducks in a row it is finally time to sit down and get to work.

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What many probably don’t know about me is while I have always loved the idea of sewing, I never could finish a project. For one I HATE to follow a pattern. I do not like to read all the lingo. And the tedious details drove me insane! I just did not have the patience for it. I can not tell you how many projects I have started over the years and never completed. But all of a sudden something has changed.

I have learned to enjoy the PROCESS. Taking my sweet time is no longer a burden, but a joy! And I am going to let you in on my secret. One of my favorite parts now is what I like to refer to as “the bones”. For me this is when I have parts made up. Maybe a bodice here, a ruffle strip, a couple of pieces put together. BEFORE it is complete. Oh of course I love the finished product, but it is during this time when I just have the BONES… what is about to come to life is just MY little secret. Only in MY mind is the idea and the picture of what I know is about to unfold. It would be hard for someone else to picture the beautiful dress, or romper or what ever it is about to be from the mess before them. I love this part! My secret.

Crazy, but this has shown me another aspect of life too. I imagine this is much what it is like for God too.

Psalm 139:13-16

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

As God was putting the “bones” together of all his precious creations it was like a beautiful little secret for him too. Only HE knew what a marvelous being you would be. He could see YOUR future and know the amazing person you would become. He is the ultimate creator. I like knowing we have this in common. Each time I work on something new I am reminded that he delights in the process. That he took the time needed to form each detail. That for a time I was HIS little secret. My goal is to make him proud. My prayer is that I am indeed a beauty to him. That when he sees me as I look at my newest creation he beams as I do.

The things they don’t tell you

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I took both my foster daughter and my bio daughter for well child check ups the other day. I have done this many times in the past. I have seen my kids get shots more times than I can count at this point. And it never bothered me. Remember I work in health care and I see people get stuck all the time. And I have never been a queasy mom. I can hold hands and whisper comforting words all the while watching every needle stick and blood draw. My son broke his arm clean through and I never had to turn the other way… til THIS baby came along.

For the first time I stood there holding the opposite tiny leg and I could not bare the site of those needles going into her skin. I felt panicky, full of anxiety and I shed tears. What is this all about? Why on earth does this baby elicit such a response when my other three bios never did? To tell you the truth it really bothered me. I thought about it a lot. I felt guilty. Why hasn’t the pain of my bio children bothered me the way this did? My husband was there too. And I think he was actually surprised at what it had done to me as well. I don’t think he has ever seen me fall apart at such a benign thing like our children getting shots. I am usually rock solid when it comes to these kind of things.

I knew at my core what was going on, but after much thought it became clear to me. You see, with my bio children I knew this pain was temporary. I knew that it would last for a few seconds and go away and they would be better in the end with these vaccinations in their system. We could go out for ice cream to reward them for being so brave and all would be forgotten… til next time. But as I listened to the piercing cries of this baby I could not take it. It took me to a place I imagined if she were not in my care. What if those cries were every day for her? What if it were not temporary? She got 5 shots this day and her heart break as she looked at me wondering why was she hurting pierced my soul. What if she were not in my care? What if she looked at those who were supposed to protect her and wondered why they were betraying her? What if she is taken from me and put in a place where pain is a daily, weekly occurrence? I could not stand the thought. It took me to a place that shakes me still. Those cries of pain haunt me. I have no guarantee with her that this could not be her reality. And for the first time in my life I feel real fear. Fear you can not put away.

You see, I don’t fear loosing her. I mean I worry about it, but I am an adult. I can pick up and go on. But my fear, the FEAR is that she will not be under my care where I KNOW she is safe. My FEAR is that she will not be taken care of. That something like not being fed in a timely manner will cause her pain. That someone who is cruel will harm her. That someone who does not know how to parent will give it their best shot but fall short. And seeing her cry in pain was a vision I will never shake. If she is ever out of my care I will hear that sound every day of my life and never know if she is screaming out and no one is there to pick her up and whisper love to her and comfort her.

This is what they don’t tell you. That going for a routine doctor visit can shake your core. That these moments sneak up on you. That at any moment you can go back to that memory and be filled with anxiety you can not fathom. It is the point of no return. No way could I stop what I am doing. And no way could I have imagined what it would be like.

Oh yeah, it is raw. It is real.

Why I love being a Foster Mom

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I realize that I am early in my journey of being a Foster mom (about 4 weeks into) and that I have heard enough horror stories to give me nightmares about it for a lifetime… but I must say that so far I love being a foster mommy. Now, let me also say that I am extremely tired and I may be experiencing a bit of euphoria today because my husband took care of the baby from midnight on, and I got the first sequential hours of sleep in a month… but all disclosures aside… I am really enjoying this journey. I have learned more about myself than maybe I ever have.

I have found that my capacity to love in its purist form is huge! My feelings for this little one can not be explained by blood, history, genetics, months of feeling her move, or any of the typical things that moms feel as they give birth. I just love. And it is beautiful.

My spiritual person has grown so much in such a short period of time. One thing I have learned about fostering is how little you know. You don’t know when you will get a call. You don’t know what the call will be. You don’t know what challenges you will face. You don’t know how long you will face them. You don’t know the end result. You don’t know ANYTHING! This has taught me so much more about trust. I have found a trust in God like I have never known. And how thankful I am for that. All I do know is that I am doing what God called me to do. That I am in the exact place he wants me to be. And I really TRUST that he will take care of everything else. What ever that may be. I now live day to day. I have no idea what tomorrow is going to look like. This would have been very hard for me just a few months ago. I am a big planner. But there is so much peace to be found in this state. I can not say that I don’t ever worry, because that would be a huge lie, but when I do I just remind myself of the many examples already provided of his direction and provision. And it is not lost on me how corny that all may sound. Like something you expect someone to tell you when they really don’t know what else to say. But corny or not it is real.

I have surprised my self at the ease at which I am doing all of this! I have four children under my care. In a very short period of time we have taken our first road trip, been to a birthday party, stayed away from home for several nights, been to sports events and running my own company. I cant figure it out, but it does not seem to be difficult! It all seems as if it has just always been this way. This would be a great time to insert that my husband is a rock star. He is involved in every way. We make a great team.

In fostering I think you are supposed to be helping others. But I must tell you that I feel like the lucky one. I do fear the future. I am human. Maybe hard times are ahead. Maybe this road leads to much heart ache. Maybe all those horror stories will be my stories. But for now I am resting in the journey and loving my new day to day.

What I learned as a Foster parent that I wish I had known sooner.

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Being a Foster parent has taught me some valuable things about being a parent that I wish I had known sooner when I was in the trenches with my biological children. I hope in sharing these maybe someone will take what I learned and use it for their little’s from the start.

1. The trappings are really NOT important. Seriously. You do not need a wipes warmer, a diaper genie, a special tub, a matching hat for every outfit, or even special baby towels. Starting over from scratch has made us really take inventory of what we needed. When you foster there isn’t usually a baby shower or gifts given that help accumulate all the baby gear. I am able to make due very well with regular towels, cold wipes, and the basin from the hospital for a tub. All that is really needed is love. Baby does not care where her diapers go, or what she gets clean in. Only that she is.

2. I am so much more relaxed! I don’t know if there are crazy hormones at work that are responsible for the neurotic ways we act when we become mothers or what. But life is so much more enjoyable raising a little one when you can separate the crazy worries that run through your head. I will not say that I don’t still have fears. I do. In fact I have some fears that I never had with the others that are new. But in general they seem to roll off easier. I recognize what I change and what I can not. I have learned to trust God in ways I never knew before. I am doing what He called me to do, and I have to trust that He is taking care of all the rest.

3. I don’t feel like I have lost me. When I became a mother I lost all track of everything else. Everything was all about baby. But now I run my own business and work still has to get done. Not only does it have to get done, but I enjoy it! It is my passion. And as much as I love my little’s I can not lose what I love to do. I don’t let myself feel guilty for not devoting every waking minute to them. I remember to take time to spend with my husband. Our relationship can not take a back seat to raising children. He is my rock. Without him, none of this would be possible.

4. I allow others to help me. When I had my biological children I breast fed them. So there was little anyone else could do to help with the hourly feedings. But there was really more to it than that. I didn’t want to have someone else do what I thought was MY job. Now, raising our littlest one is a family affair. My sons have helped feed her, my husband has a night shift and I am able to get away for hours if need be. And while I am away I don’t worry about things not being done MY way. I have realized that they benefit from all the things we each bring to the table. And what lessons my kids are learning in helping take care of a baby!

5.I let her skip a night feeding. YEP! If she sleeps through a feeding or it runs an hour later than the three hour mark I don’t sweat it! There I said it! And she is healthy and thriving still. Okay, so this rarely happens, but that is her doing not mine. If she wants to sleep at night I am going to let her.

6. When fostering we really never know how long we will be allowed to love them, to care for them. So every day is precious. Every day is a gift. And we are learning to cherish each other in a special way each day. We don’t have to have an excursion planned every day. Just sitting at home spending time together is special. And we make the most of it all.

If I could go back and tell my younger self these things I would. That new mom was tired, stressed, and overwhelmed. She had read all the books, thought she knew just how it was supposed to be. I would tell her to go eat out somewhere by herself. Let someone feed the baby a bottle. Sleep alittle longer if she could. And above all… not worry about things that were out of her control.

A Foster Mother’s Prayer

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For the second time in my life, I find myself “rooming in” with a NICU graduate. It is because I have been down this road before with my own biological daughter I understand the great significance of it. And while I feel privileged to help this little love transition, I am also sad because I know  how meaningful it is and that it is truly the right of a mother. It is also for that reason that I feel scared in this moment. As I take on this role and further plant myself in these awesome moments I fear that I may lose myself to her as well. Be near me God. Go easy on me I beg. I know no other way to love than completely and without restraint.